The four elements, highly visible in this region, continue to shape the land. Fire, in the form of volcanoes, continues to rumble, hiss and spew. Water, defines the region for food, trade and recreation. Air, in the form of wind, brings in moisture to nourish the soil, and had created a new sport, windsurfing. Earth enables the bounty of edible plant life. Modern, ordinary people have a “gatherer” culture I’ve observed no where else. Why buy huckleberries when you can pick them in the woods? Farmers have capitalized on this culture. People flock to Sauvie Island in the summer to pick strawberries and blueberries. With a $5 permit, one can even go into the woods and pick their own Christmas tree.
Day 2: Among the 50 + hikes in the Columbia Gorge, two are iconic. The first is Multhomah Falls at mile marker 31 off of Interstate 84. The paved walk is a heart pumping, gradual 1 ¼ mile climb rewarded by a breathtaking view at the top of the falls. This is the second highest year round waterfall in the country. The experience is a bit disneyfied, with busloads of tourists and food stands, but nature provides the reason for the attention. Geological events have rendered this section of the gorge with a great number of falls, so if you can’t stand the crowds, many less spectacular falls are nearby. (or come in off season) I do confess, I really did enjoy a sno-cone when I reached the bottom.
The second iconic hike is the climb up Beacon Rock on Highway 14 a few miles of the Bridge of the Gods. The rock served as a navigational point for Native traders and a reference point for both Lewis and Clark and for pioneers on the Oregon trail. Much of the ascent is on the western and southern sides, so in summer the climb is best tackled in the morning. Like Multhomah Falls, the trail is steep, but not hard. The rock is the core of an ancient volcano, the rest of which washed away during the period of flooding. It makes me wonder how many other volcanoes were active along this corridor at one time.
People have modified land, cleared it, tilled it, and shaped it for economic, political and aesthetic reasons. But we cannot stop an eruption, change the direction of a river or the force of the wind. We cannot stop the uplift or collapse of mountains. People adapt to place. Beliefs, values and identities develop from those adaptations. Migrations bring existing beliefs, values and identities from an old place, and pass them down to future generations. For instance, if you grow up in snowy mountains, it’s difficult to share your parents’ identity growing up on a tropical island, even if you share most of the same values. Our surrounding landscape mark us forever, and play an integral part of who we become.
You must be logged in to post a comment.